Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome to my Blog - A test for "Designers" to see if they're for real

If you've found my blog, you're probably a friend or business associate, so welcome, first of all!  I wanted to start this as a way to keep in touch with my clients, friends and do a general talk (and possibly rant) about all things graphic and web design.

LOGO CREATION TEST FOR "Designers" (read - those who need to do some more training before calling themselves this)

One thing that I've noticed in my long-standing graphic design experience, both in my current and in past jobs, but also as a new graphic and web design professional is that there are a lot of "designers" out there.  I'm sure you noticed the little quotation marks around designers, and I'd like to identify some ways to know if who you're working with really knows what they are selling or if they're most likely a newbie that's charging too much for their rather basic work or farming you out to a design house.  Here are a few questions you can ask to test them:

1) I'd like to make some printed materials for my new business. I was thinking a business card, envelope and letterhead to start. Do you have a PMS book? 
            Now, if they're thinking you're talking about something to do with women, this is a "designer", not a graphics professional.  PMS is a shortened term for PANTONE® which is a color system for reproducing color on presses. This can also translate to fabrics and many other things. Check out for more information on the Pantone matching system.

2) Ask the designer if they have any sample logos that you can view on their monitor.  If they immediately open up Photoshop as their go-to design tool, this is where you should run screaming (or I would).  Photoshop is an OUTSTANDING program for doing RASTER work, but should never (if possible) be used to design a company logo.  The problem with Photoshop is that it uses Pixels, rather than mathematical points to make up the image.

What this translates to in layman's terms is that you have a certain amount of image information in small colored-squares that make up your logo.  When you make that logo smaller, what happens in the program is that it takes a look at those pixels, decides which of them it can discard in order that the image fits into the smaller space and chucks them.  If you want to make the image larger, the program again looks at the image, and invents pixels and adds them in.  Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want a program looking at my logo and discarding parts of it, nor do I want a program that invents parts of my logo and adds them in.  Here's an image I found which illustrates this concept a bit better:

VECTOR files on the other hand, created in such programs as Adobe Illustrator, the previous Macromedia Freehand, Corel Draw, and some others use mathematical points to identify strokes, fills and textures. Modern vector drawing programs allow nearly full freedom to create including complex textures, gradient colors, lighting effects and the like, but are fully scalable (meaning you can put this on a pen, or stretch it to fill up the side of a building or bus) with NO QUALITY LOSS.

3) Ask the designer what color-space they use for designing logos for print.

If they don't know what you're talking about, this is another one of those "designers" that you should probably stay away from.  There are two primary color spaces (or spectrums) that are used widely by us designers.  CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK - also known as Process Colors are used by offset and digital presses.  These four colors create most visible colors and are what you see in full-color postcards, magazine ads and just about any printed piece you come across.  Basically, the press puts down dots in various patterns from rosettes to stochastic or FM-screened patterns which when viewed from a distance of 1-2" or more fool the eye into seeing the plethora of colors you see on the printed page.  When viewed from very close or with a magnifying glass, you will see the different dots in yellow, pink or light blue, plus black. Take a close look at any of that junk mail you have on your table or desk and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Another color space that is widely used is RGB or Red Green Blue. This is the visual light spectrum and is used primarily with video display devices, monitors, cameras and the web.  This spectrum is made up of approx. 16.7million colors (depending on bit-depth) and is the widest spectrum of color available.  A JPEG photo file is nearly always RGB.

So, if the designer uses RGB for their print images, this is another one of those "other designers" which you'll want to walk away from politely.

I hope this is of some help and I'll try to periodically give you some tips and insight into graphics and the web here at my blog.  Have a fantastic week!

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